Illinois solar hits a bump in the road

By Drs. Robert & Sonia Vogl 
Contributor

Just a few months ago the passage of Future Energy Jobs Act in Illinois was lauded as promising biggest advancement of clean energy investments in the history of the state. With up to 2700 MW of solar electric and 1350 MW of new wind installations expected the new supplies could meet the energy needs of roughly one million Illinois homes.

A subsequent compromise was struck between nuclear and renewable energy interests which assures ratepayer support for economically challenged nuclear power plants in the state and provides funds for renewable energy installations.

A unique provision in the act created the Illinois Solar for All Program which extends the benefits of energy efficiency and clean energy to low-income and minority communities. With the ongoing state budget battle a proposal under consideration would take away the funds from the Illinois Solar for All program. In response to this threat, the Environmental Law and Policy Center has issued a call for concerned citizens to email their legislators to request they retain funds for the program.

Despite this challenge to funding some renewable energy programs in Illinois a steady stream of announcements exists regarding new solar installations and continued technological progress in the industry. For example, according to a recent announcement in the Lake County News-Sun, Waukegan School District 60 is considering leasing a former 70-acre landfill site to a firm planning to install a solar farm on the school-owned property. Some 45 acres are considered suitable for solar installations. While the details remain to be worked out, the school district expects the project would produce a new revenue stream for them and lower the annual maintenance costs associated with the property.

In addition to the opportunities for solar installations on publically owned buildings and property, corporate interests are moving ahead with plans to install solar systems on their properties. According to Ceres, 240 firms in the Fortune 500 hold specific climate and or energy goals. Corporations have already installed over one GW of onsite solar capacity and have signed agreements for another seven gigawatts for off-site renewable energy since 2014.

Solar systems have been installed in this area at sewage treatment facilities such as those in Rockford and Rochelle and at nature centers including the Byron Forest Preserve and Nachusa Grasslands.

In addition to installations on public facilities, a number of manufacturing facilities in the area are supplied with solar electricity as exemplified by Wahl Clipper in Sterling and the Specialty Screw Facility in Rockford.

With ongoing cost reductions in solar systems and continued technological improvements, the potential for a rapid expansion of installations in Illinois and other states in the country is promising.  We continue to encourage others whether individuals, public officials or private firms to consider meeting some of their electrical needs with solar energy.

Plan to attend this year’s Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair August 19 and 20 at the Ogle County Fairgrounds to learn about energy options for Illinois.Find more at illinoisrenew.org.

The major sponsor of the Fair is the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation. We appreciate the support of The Rock River Times. R.

Drs. Robert and Sonia Vogl are the President and Vice President of the Illinois Renewable Energy Association.

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